After a year of living with COVID in Canada, we all know Dr. Theresa Tam as Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. A physician with expertise in immunization, infectious disease, emergency preparedness, and global health security, Dr. Tam has held several senior leadership positions at the Public Health Agency of Canada, including as the Deputy Chief Public Health Officer and the Assistant Deputy Minister for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control. During her 20 years in public health, she has provided technical expertise and leadership on new initiatives to improve communicable disease surveillance, enhance immunization programs, strengthen health emergency management and laboratory biosafety and biosecurity.
In 2020, Dr. Tam became a familiar face for many Canadians as her daily updates on the COVID-19 pandemic found their way into the nation’s homes. In late October, as the second wave was climbing, the Public Health Agency released its annual report highlighting the successes and shortcomings of Canada’s pandemic response so far. Dr.Tam used the opportunity to call for “structural change” across health, social, and economic sectors, saying that the efforts being made to address the inequality exposed by the pandemic — from improving conditions in long term care homes to income support for vulnerable workers — should continue beyond COVID. In her own words, “No one is protected until everyone is protected.”
Her particular focus on the health impacts of the pandemic on seniors, essential workers, racialized populations, people living with disabilities, and women showcase the breadth of her vision for an equitable society that protects Canadians from the threat of COVID-19, and future pandemics.